Long before a 20-year-old suspected gunman walked into a Connecticut elementary school and killed 20 small children and seven educators, several Washington area pastors had planned programs this weekend designed to help families often coping with violence.
On Saturday, the Rev. Elwood Gray will oversee a Christmas party for soon-to-be-released inmates at the Montgomery County Detention Center in Rockville. Also, in Glendale, former professional athletes will gather with pastors and a White House official for a town hall meeting on fatherhood.
In terms of what happened in Newton, Conn., Gray said mass killings involving children are very hard to deal with in terms of the community.
“This hard because these children have not had the opportunity to go through life to go through school,” said Gray, who has worked in prison ministries for more than three decades. “Incidents like this show us how frail life is and how it could be snuffed out at any moment.”
Gray said when one looks at incidents like school shooting, there is a pattern because, in many cases, the shooter will either take his life or put himself in a position to be killed.
“It is a moment of passion, something that the shooter will regret,” said Gray, a chaplain at Maryland’s Patuxent Institute in Jessup. “This is why many will commit suicide because they can’t stand the burden of the crime that they have committed.
At Reid Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church, there will be a panel discussion on fatherhood featuring former Washington Redskins defensive back Darrell Green, former Washington Wizard forward Etan Thomas, Joshua Dubois, director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and the Rev. John K. Jenkins, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Glendarden.
The Rev. Joseph Deck, event coordinator and minister to men at Reid Temple AME, said incidents such as the shooting underscore the need for men from all walks of life to have a forum where they can talk and express themselves before things get out of hand.
“The goal of this panel is to bring these issues out of our private frustrations and to put it in a public forum where we can tackle this thing together as a community,” Deck said. “Black men carry around a bucket of tears that we hide from public view. Hopefully this panel will bring about ideas on how men can manage conflict while trying to be good fathers before it’s too late.”
Deck added, “When men come to me a lot of times they bring a lot of issues. One of the dominant systemic issues has been the absence of the father in their lives emotionally, physically and spiritually. There hasn’t been a model before the young men to get proper modeling of male behavior.”
Decks said even though there are mentoring programs they often have limitations. “In our mentoring ministries, 90 percent of the households headed by sisters. They have done an admirable job, but it is so important for children to see male role models who bring positive influences to their lives.”
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